YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – Millions of people travel to Yellowstone National Park each year to experience all the park’s unique features.
Geysers, bison, and bears are high points of any visit, but starting this week, visitors also get to experience the park’s earliest history through a new program called the Tribal Marketplace.
“There is a famous Metshiff leader, and he said that when the native people come back again and are successful again and bring our fight forward, it will be our artist,” said Carrie Moran-McCleary, a Tribal Marketplace artist. “I really hold that in my heart.”
And this week, the artists came to Yellowstone.
“This is where my people came from and where we hunted,” said Della BigHair-Stump, another Marketplace artist. “We still hunt today, we eat elk. Elk is, for the Crow people, our main jewelry. This is my heirloom from my late grandmother, who passed on these family heirlooms.”
Yellowstone’s features mean more than photo opportunities for people who come from all over the world. For the Indigenous people who lived in this area for thousands of years, animals like elk were a food source and a source of clothing.
Not all of those participating in the event were from the Yellowstone area – but that doesn’t change the power of this place.
“As I was driving into the park, it’s spiritually overwhelming,” said Traci Rabbit, another Tribal Marketplace artist. “I really can’t put it into words right now. What I hope to take away are some new friends when I leave and to learn about their culture and them to learn about mine.”
The work of the artists went beyond cultural sharing – they also served as role models.
“I think empowerment is a great word for it,” said Elissa Regan, who works with the American College Fund. “Elevation of voice, empowerment of spirit. That’s incredibly important because if you feel underrepresented or misrepresented, you need someone to come and be a mirror and all of a sudden you can look and say ‘That’s me, that’s where I can be, that’s where I can go.’ These artists are very much giving our students that opportunity.”
“I think as Indigenous women we can stand alone, but as we come together we’re a force to be reckoned with,” said Rabbit.
“We are still here as Indigenous people, we are still here, and we are growing, and we are beautiful,” said BigHair-Stump. “And fabulous.”
The Tribal Marketplace at Yellowstone: A Celebration of Plains Art and Culture was scheduled for June 11-14 at the Old Faithful Inn. Seven Native American artists exhibited their art and engaged with park visitors. A fashion show was also held on the evening of June 11.
-Reported by Chet Layman/MTN News